- Featured image at the top of this post created by Midjourney, prompt by Kay Oddone
It is true that as an educator, you never top learning – in both the informal and formal sense.
This year I have begun completing the Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education; both as a part of my probation with CSU and also as a way of formalising the skills and knowledge I have in this area. I’ve been teaching for 25 years this year, since starting with my first class of Year Ones way back in 1998 (they are 30 years’ old now! that makes me feel old!). My teaching philosophy has morphed and developed over the years, and the first assessment in EEL522 Foundations of teaching and learning in Higher Education is to reflect on our teaching philosophy and to create a professional development plan (PDP).
In the spirit of openness (which I have always tried to maintain through this blog) I am therefore sharing my plan and philosopy here – as a form of accountability and also in recognition of the fact that this is my online portfolio, that has traced my thinking, learning and growth since initiating my PhD in 2016. So, without further ado, here is my PDP and teaching philosopy as at the beginning of 2023.
My PDP reflects my current plans and goals for further enhancing my capabilities in learning and teaching. Completing this plan was an interesting exercise for me, partially because as an early career academic, most of my focus has most recently been on developing my research skills rather than my teaching skills. My career history (described briefly below) has been entrenched in education, and therefore I come to this position with a body of knowledge regarding pedagogy, learning design and curriculum development. Therefore I have included a summary of my qualifications and work history to give context to the plan that follows.
• Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management) – Queensland University of Technology
• Graduate Diploma of Education (Preservice) – Queensland University of Technology
• Graduate Diploma of Religious Education – Australian Catholic University
• Master of Education: Teacher Librarianship – Charles Sturt University
• Graduate Certificate: ICT in Education – Charles Sturt University
• PhD – Exploring how teachers enhance their professional learning through online personal learning networks – Queensland University of Technology
My career has been spent in the education sector. I have taught at Primary and Secondary levels, have held the role of Teacher Librarian and Assistant Principal and have also held positions in the Brisbane Catholic Education Head Office as Education Officer: Digital Learning and Librarian.
Since completing my PhD in 2018 I have worked at Queensland University of Technology as the course director of the Master of Education: Teacher Librarianship (no longer offered at QUT); as a learning designer for a new online MBA at University of Southern Queensland (12 month contract); and began at CSU at the end of 2021 as the course director and a lecturer in the Master of Education: Teacher Librarianship.
Professional Development Plan
After reflection, consideration of my probation professional development plan and completion of the CSU good practices audit, I have the following short and long term goals for my PDP, linked to the Scholarly Environment Model (SEM). The plan is also presented visually in this presentation on Miro linked here and also embedded below. A tabular form with more explicit links to the SEM is viewable here.
My personal teaching philosophy is informed by connected learning, critical digital pedagogy and a pedagogy of kindness. Connected learning and critical digital pedagogy shape my ‘educational’ worldview, informing pedagogical decisions and in the area of Teacher Librarianship and selection of learning materials and resources as well as the modes through which these are offered. The value of kindness is the principle that I apply through my interactions with students and colleagues, as well as in my consideration of how course design impacts upon students as humans and as individuals. In this reflection I will explain each of these concepts in more detail and analyse how they have infused my teaching philosophy.
As a lecturer in a completely online course, I have found connected learning to be a useful way to ensure learning opportunities are reflective of the information landscape and digital environment in which Master of Education: Teacher Librarianship students live, work and learn. Connected learning is one way that has been suggested to respond to the increasing complexity, interconnectedness and pace of change in our times (Kumpulainen & Sefton-Green, 2012). The Connected Learning Framework is a well known interpretation of the concept of connected learning. Devised by Mimi Ito and her colleagues (2013), this framework is based on the proposition that learning is lifelong, and embedded in the world of work, civic engagement and social participation of the learner (Ito et al., 2013). The connected learning framework creates education which is closer to “a many-to-many network of co-learning enthusiasts rather than a roomful of students and a one-to-many teacher” (Weeks, 2012, p. 116). This conception of learning aligns with social learning theory, which suggests that learning is a social phenomenon, occurring within the context of our lived experience and participation in the world (Wenger, 2010).
Connected learning is a flexible, networked enterprise, taking advantage of the affordances of digital networks and enabled through participation in culture and community. Most importantly, this approach to learning recognises that formal education is not the only space for learning, but that it is one of many contexts in which the contemporary learner develops their knowledge and understandings (Kumpulainen & Sefton-Green, 2012). This is particularly important to my teaching philosophy, as I recognise that students bring with them many experiences, knowledges and beliefs that not only shape their own learning, but which may informally influence the learning of others.
Key tenets of connected learning are that knowledge is actively co-constructed in a learner centred environment; learning is a social phenomenon which occurs across multiple contexts, driven by learners’ interests; the learner develops a learning environment which supports connections which bring together their own interests, opportunities to work with colleagues and their identified goals; and that social technology platforms are leveraged to create interactive spaces for support, creation and sharing (Ito et al., 2013). Therefore, when teaching, I aim to develop learning opportunities that recognise that learning is a social phenomenon, which is more meaningful when the learner can relate the subject matter to their personal learning goals and interests. As the learners in the MEd. Teacher Librarianship are all online, geographically dispersed and with busy lives as practicing professionals, I aim to leverage digital platforms which enable them to share their thoughts and ideas with each other, and to build their understandings through discussion.
When designing assessment tasks, it is important to ensure that, where possible, the task is authentic and able to be applied to a range of contexts, reflecting the different backgrounds and interest areas of the students. Students are encouraged to blog about their developing understandings throughout the subjects, in a digital space that is initiated in the first subject of the course, and which is maintained as a learning portfolio throughout their subjects. Designing learning opportunities such as these which are production centred and academically oriented and which encourage critical reflection are key strategies that I use to ensure learners remain engaged and connected even though they may never meet face to face with other members of their cohort.
Critical digital pedagogy
To be a successful teacher librarian, individuals must maintain a high level of digital and information literacy, as these are central capabilities of the role, as well as a significant part of what teacher librarians model and scaffold for students and teachers at their school. Therefore, I continue to work on expanding my own understanding of critical digital pedagogy, to ensure I can successfully design learning opportunities that challenge students to actively engage in the development of these skills.
My teaching philosophy is informed by the belief that the future is determined through our decisions and actions. Therefore these decisions and actions must be fully informed. With this in mind, teaching information and digital literacies as forms of technical competence is a limited perspective that is no longer appropriate in the current information and digital environment, where information is no longer static, needing to be sought, but is actively pushed to us by algorithms which are continuously learning and changing (Head et al., 2020). Consequently, it is necessary to broaden approaches to information and digital literacy. One strategy to do so is by employing critical digital pedagogy; an approach that applies across the continuum of formal to informal teaching and learning. The premise of critical digital pedagogy is the promotion of learner agency and empowerment, by encouraging critical analysis of not only what is being learnt, but the (digital) spaces in which the learning is taking place (Morris & Stommel, 2018).
Critical digital pedagogy empowers the individual to consider not only how a particular digital tool or platform is used, but also to think about the audience or users of the tool or space, the purpose and context of the creators and the reasons for its creation. The influence or impact of the tool or space, and potential outcomes of use should also be critically evaluated (Morris & Stommel, 2018). The focus of critical digital pedagogies goes beyond the technology itself, as the people, values and personal bias that may have informed the design of the technology should also be considered. This leads to a rigorous appraisal of whether and how a tool or platform could and should be used within a teaching and learning context. In the age of generative artificial intelligence, these considerations are more vital than ever, and relate closely to the teacher librarian’s role as they guide students and teachers to develop ethical approaches to using information and information tools. Therefore, modelling and scaffolding critical digital pedagogies is an essential influence on my personal approach to designing teaching and learning activities.
Critical digital pedagogy aligns with the Transformative GeSTE Window (Lupton & Bruce, 2010). This is one perspective of information literacy (described as a ‘window’ on the information world) that challenges the individual to ask questions such as “who benefits from this digital technology? whose voices are loudest? whose are silenced? what are the alternatives to using this digital technology?” (Lupton & Bruce, 2010, p. 13) It is the call of critical digital pedagogy that has instigated my goal to become more familiar with First Nations perspectives, and to ensure that the design of subjects with the MEd. Teacher Librarianship course is reflective of a diverse and respectful acknowledgement of First Nations people and their important place in learning and education.
Critical digital pedagogy reminds us that our future is formed and informed by the many decisions we make daily, consciously and subconsciously. As educators it is important that we ensure these decisions, when related to teaching and learning, are made in such a way to encourage active and critical reflection.
A pedagogy of kindness
Finally, I aim to embed within my teaching practice a pedagogy of kindness (Gilmour, 2021). Students are at the centre of my pedagogical approach. I am acutely aware of the challenges facing students who study remotely, exacerbated most recently by the added uncertainty and disruption created by the Covid pandemic. Although the pandemic seems ‘over’, schools are still struggling to recover from the emergency remote learning, increased rates of illness and mental health implications, and the students enrolled in the MEd. Teacher Librarianship are all qualified teachers. Supported by my research in the value and potential of digital networks for learning (Oddone, 2022), I focus upon building a supportive learning community that consists of equitable relationships and trust.
I aim to meet the diversity of student learning needs and to recognise the time-poor nature of practicing teachers taking on additional study. One concrete example is through the development of multimedia resources to replace previously text heavy modules, including videos, regular and interactive multimedia infographics. I have developed a series of ten podcasts for ETL401 featuring leading Teacher Librarians and other experts from the field, and I plan to use this model to produce further series for other subjects in the future. These resources are made available in the modules and also on a Thinkspace website, to model the openly networked principles of connected learning.
My teaching philosophy is grounded on theory (connected learning, critical digital pedagogy) and practice (a pedagogy of kindness). My aim is to develop a learning environment where students feel supported and aware that I am working with them to ensure their success. I continue to draw upon my own PLN and professional reading to constantly update the information and resources accessible through the subjects and am active in creating material in a range of interesting and useful formats. I hope to design greater opportunities for students to interact with the learning materials and with each other, and to continue to create connections between theory, practice and the wider education community.
Gilmour, A. (2021). Adopting a pedagogy of kindness. Journal of learning development in higher education, 22. https://doi.org/10.47408/jldhe.vi22.798
Head, A. J., Fister, B., & Macmillan, M. (2020). Information literacy in the age of algorithms. Project Information Research Institute. https://projectinfolit.org/publications/algorithm-study/
Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., Schor, J., Sefton-Green, J., & Watkins, S. C. (2013). Connected learning: An agenda for research and design (9780988725508). Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. http://dmlhub.net/wp-content/uploads/files/Connected_Learning_report.pdf
Kumpulainen, K., & Sefton-Green, J. (2012). What is connected learning and how to research it? International Journal of Learning and Media, 4(2), 7-18.
Lupton, M., & Bruce, C. (2010). Windows on information literacy worlds: Generic, situated and transformative perspectives. In A. Lloyd & S. Talja (Eds.), Practising information literacy: Bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together (1st edition ed., pp. 3-27). Centre for Information Studies.
Morris, S. M., & Stommel, J. (2018). An urgency of teachers: The work of critical digital pedagogy. Pressbooks.
Oddone, K. (2022). The nature of teachers’ professional learning through a personal learning network: Individual, social and digitally connected. Teaching and Teacher Education: Leadership and Professional Development, 1, 100001. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tatelp.2022.100001
Weeks, A. (2012). Participation power. In H. Rheingold (Ed.), Net smart: How to thrive online (pp. 111-145). MIT Press.
Wenger, E. (2010). Communities of practice and social learning systems: The career of a concept. Social learning systems and communities of practice, 1(Book, Whole), Pages 179-198. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-84996-133-2